May 20, 2018
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Storm brings blizzard conditions, closes services across state

By From and wire reports, Special to the BDN

A powerful blizzard packing winds as high as 65 mph hammered Maine throughout the day Monday, causing accidents, power outages and business closings.

One storm-related fatality was reported late Sunday night in the southern Maine town of Wells, where 59-year-old Richard Folsom crashed his truck into a tree and later died.

Most accidents, though, were minor.

In Newport, a tractor-trailer loaded with bark slid off the snow-covered road early Monday morning and crashed into a home. The truck and home both had significant damage, but no one was hurt.

According to Newport police Lt. Randy Wing, the tractor-trailer was going down Stetson Road at about 1:20 a.m. when the driver lost control and the rig slid off the right side of the road just beyond the intersection with Old Bangor Road. The truck crashed into the sunroom of the home at 68 Stetson Road owned by Stanley and Marguerite Fowler. The occupants of the home were in a back bedroom at the time, but the impact shook the structure and sent glass shards throughout the house.

Marguerite Fowler, 81, said it sounded like a bomb went off.

“We don’t need all that excitement at our age,” she said.

The driver and owner of the 1997 Peterbilt truck was Ryan Leighton, 28, of Kenduskeag. No charges were filed against Leighton, though Wing said the investigation into the accident continues.

In Camden, a tractor-trailer knocked down a utility pole on Route 1 around 2:30 p.m., forcing public safety crews to close the road for more than two hours.

Lt. Harold Page of the Ellsworth Police Department said his department had to respond to calls from Bridge Hill in Ellsworth, where Route 1 heads uphill east of the Union River toward Bucksport, early Monday afternoon because vehicles were sliding into snowbanks at an intersection. No one was injured and no vehicles had substantial damage, he said.

“There’s very little traffic out there,” Page said. “Anything that is out there has a plow [on the front].”

Despite the prolonged intensity of the storm, traffic accidents were minimized largely because there was less traffic on the road. State offices and many other businesses made the decision to close, some as early as Sunday night, and Maine schools already were on holiday break.

Matt Doody with the National Weather Service in Caribou said most of the state would have at least a foot of snow by the time precipitation stopped. Harrington in Washington County had 15 inches by late afternoon, followed by 14 inches in Bangor, 11 inches in Ellsworth and 6 inches in Caribou, although the high winds made measuring snow difficult.

“In some spots, we’ve seen nearly a foot while other spots close by were essentially bare,” he said.

The strongest wind gusts were reported along the coast, with Cutler experiencing winds as high as 65 mph and Prospect Harbor having gusts of 52 mph, Doody said. Bangor had winds gusting to 42 mph.

Even though the snow was expected to wrap up by late evening, winds were expected to linger into Tuesday, contributing to additional blowing snow.

Central Maine Power Co. reported 3,215 homes and businesses without power as of 5 p.m. because of high winds. The number of outages rose briefly to 3,500 during midmorning, but crews were able to restore power to nearly all customers by 1 p.m. The number of outages jumped again to a peak of 4,000 in midafternoon as winds switched to the north-northwest.

“The wind continues to create some problems even as the storm is pulling away,” said John Carroll, CMP spokesman. “We had scattered outages all through the day, but our crews were able to restore power in most cases in just a few hours. We expect that will continue for the rest of the day. Unless the weather deteriorates significantly, the crews should be able to keep up with the outages. No one should be out overnight.”

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported 236 customers without power as of 4 p.m., with most outages in Washington and Hancock counties. The utility expected all power to be restored by late evening.

Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency on Sunday, and state government was shut down in preparation for the blizzard.

In Portland, city offices for all nonessential services were closed because of the storm while in Auburn the city delayed the opening of its offices.

Bangor City Hall was open as scheduled, although the city did impose a parking ban from 11 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday to deal with snow removal. The BAT Community Connector bus system did not offer service on Monday.

Bangor International Airport remained open for business Monday. Flights to and from Philadelphia and New York were canceled because those airports were closed, but BIA Director Rebecca Hupp said flights from Bangor to Detroit and to Orlando were on schedule as of late morning. Some flights out of Portland International Jetport were canceled or delayed.

Amtrak briefly canceled train service between Portland and Boston, but restarted service later Monday morning. Bus companies also canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers. Concord Trailways canceled Monday’s routes in Maine and New Hampshire. Greyhound bus routes were canceled from Charlotte, N.C., to Canada, a spokeswoman said.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency advised drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. Strong winds, low visibility, and blowing and drifting snow made for extremely dangerous, life-threatening whiteout conditions, according to officials at the National Weather Service.

Bangor Daily News writers Eric Russell, Christopher Cousins, Bill Trotter and Heather Steeves and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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